Every once in a while, there comes a game that is so relentlessly, unabashedly awful that it manages to go down in the history books. Action 52 is one of those games.
Noted for attempting to break the mold by featuring 52 titles in one cartridge, the game was the brainchild of aspiring developer Vince Perri and his studio Active Enterprises, and was released for the NES in 1991 followed by a 1993 Sega Genesis port, with a planned SNES port getting scrapped. While AE had remarkably high hopes for the game, literally everything but success barged through their door when the time came for the big release as extremely poor word of mouth spread throughout. That’s not to say that they’re wrong, though – in fact, they’re pretty much dead on, as the game itself is simply atrocious. From glitchy and in some cases completely unplayable titles, retina-assaulting visuals, and much, much more, it’s no wonder why Action 52 has went on to become one of the shining beacons of horrible video games. With that said, there’s one game that stands out more significantly than the rest, said game being Cheetahmen.
(NOTE: This is the title screen of the Genesis version. The NES version doesn’t have a title screen, though it does have an opening cutscene.)
In what could best be described as AE’s attempt to cash in on the immense popularity surrounding the original 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, the game follows a trio of anthropomorphic cheetahs, two of which named after ancient Greek gods (GOLLY GEE GOSH, I SURE DO WONDER WHO COULD HAVE INFLUENCED THAT IDEA!?) named Hercules, Apollo, and Aries, as they valiantly battle to thwart the dastardly plot of the mad scientist Dr. Morbis. With that out of the way, can these ferocious felines possibly offer any sort of redemption to such a catastrophe of a game, or was their placement as the very last title an indication that AE saved the “best” for last? Let’s find out, shall we?
Well, one thing’s for sure; they haven’t eased on the godawful visuals by a LOOOOOONG shot. The best way that I can describes the graphics is that they look less like an NES game and more like an Atari 2600 game that was given a makeover to include a tiny bit of detail. In addition to that, the character sprites are some of the worst that I’ve ever seen in an NES game. Not only is it difficult to make out what a majority of them are even supposed to be, they all look lazily and sloppily designed, some of them often flickering most of the time. But you wanna know what the worst part about this is? The graphics are just the least of the problems here…
You hear that obnoxiously repetitive tune above? Well, you better get used to it, because that is literally ALL THAT YOU’LL BE HEARING THROUGHOUT THE GAME. The NES Rocky and Bullwinkle game, while worse on a technical level, at least changed the tunes around for a few levels. But that’s not even the most insulting part! In the sequel (trust me, I’ll get around to ripping that piece of crap a new one at a later date), THEY DO THE EXACT SAME THING!! There’s being cheap, and then there’s…I don’t even know how to describe this!
On paper, the gameplay isn’t complex by any means. It’s your typical side-scrolling platformer with some elements of a beat ’em up thrown in for good measure, with some levels having you shift control to another Cheetahman, whether it be the the club-wielding Aries (who you start off with), the bow and arrow-wielding Apollo, or the muscular Hercules. In execution, however, it is literally broken far beyond possible description. First off, the controls are horrible. Not only are they incredibly stiff and clunky, but they can also be barely responsive at times. The level design is tepid through and through, offering nothing to stand out from the rest of the NES library while being boring and bland at best to infuriatingly tedious at worst. Add in some cruddy hit detection and all of the other aforementioned issues, and you’re left with one sad mess.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Action 52 has rightfully earned its’ status as one of the worst video games ever made, and Cheetahmen only enforces that fact even more with its’ hideous visuals, remarkably lazy soundtrack (if you can even call it that) and gameplay that brings one of the most legendary video game consoles of all time to a whole new low. Simply put, avoid it and Action 52 as a whole like the plague. Now if you excuse me, I’ll be busy taking up an occupation as a poacher in the savanna.
THE RETR0PIA RANKING
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